Palmetto Sunrise: How and why did Eleanor Kitzman end up with DHEC nod?

The South Carolina Statehouse Grace Beahm/Staff

The Department of Health and Environmental Control’s nominee for director, Eleanor Kitzman, is a friend of Gov. Nikki Haley and a former insurance executive.

Kitzman has a long past, and is no stranger to controversy. In 2010, she ran in the Republican primary for lieutenant governor. She also served under former Gov. Mark Sanford and has served in other posts under Haley.

It seems much of Kitzman’s controversial past will be picked at by Democrats on the Senate Medical Affairs Committee as confirmation hearings proceed.

What senators seem most interested in so far is why and how Kitzman got the post.

Haley first broached the job with Kitzman in December of last year, Kitzman testified. Soon after, the governor asked Kitzman if she would be interested in the DHEC position and an interview with the DHEC board was scheduled. Kitzman was soon offered the post.

Sen. Kevin Johnson, D-Manning, compared that to the selection of former DHEC director Catherine Templeton, who was chosen from 300 applicants after a four-month search, he said. A DHEC spokeswoman has said the agency did not consider other candidates.

Kitzman repeatedly told senators that she could not speak for DHEC’s search process.

Democratic senators also said they were concerned that Kitzman had made numerous amendments to her background paperwork submitted to the Senate. Kitzman said that her original disclosure form to the Senate committee was “substantially correct” but that she may have interpreted questions too narrowly and later expanded the report.

Kitzman had corrected and amended a Senate questionnaire more than 30 times two days before her confirmation hearing, including a disclosure that she wrote a bad check and that a court filed action against her for unpaid student loans, according to a summary document.

“Out of an abundance of caution I wanted to do that because I have nothing to hide,” Kitzman said.

Hearings proceed starting late Tuesday and possibly through the rest of the week.

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